Border dispute

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
Scheme that offers only borderline C grade pupils extra tuition is criticised

A SCHEME that singles out borderline C grade GCSE pupils for extra English and maths lessons has been criticised by teachers for leaving out other pupils.

Ministers have said that schools should be helping all pupils to achieve their potential by personalising their learning. However, the Government project gives mentoring only to students on the brink of achieving a C grade at GCSE. Higher- or lower-achieving teenagers cannot apply.

The Study Plus scheme is aimed at raising schools' league table performance, which is judged primarily by the proportion of students gaining five or more C grades or better at GCSEs, including English and maths.

Many teachers believe that the scheme is unfair to other students. They have told The TES that it can be as important for an A-grade pupil to get an A* and that the lowest achievers could be left out if they are thought not to be border material.

Anthony Farrell, head of English at St Ives school, Cornwall, said: "Every child matters, we are told. From this, it seems that some children matter more than others."

The Study Plus project, developed by the secondary national strategy, gives selected Year 10 pupils the chance to opt for two years of extra classes and mentoring in English, maths or both. The classes typically contain eight students and take place at least twice a week, either outside normal teaching time or as an alternative to another GCSE course.

The project has been piloted since last September at 100 secondary schools in 27 local authorities. Advice on how to run the scheme will be offered to all schools from this September.

Strategy guidance states that borderline pupils are the "priority", because schools cannot target such intervention at all pupils.

One former teacher, who asked not to be named, said: "If schools are being encouraged to focus on the borderline CD students, the concern is that they will not worry so much about the others, especially special needs pupils."

Alan Howe, a senior secondary national strategy director, said the scheme was not entirely aimed at pupils on the CD borderline. Other packages it had devised included those for gifted pupils.

"Schools need to do something innovative in order to make a difference," he said. "Study Plus is offering that innovation."

Southmoor Community School, Sunderland, said it was seeing results from the Study Plus pilot. Michael Hall, deputy head of English, said that some pupils who were expecting Cs had produced A grade coursework after responding well to the mix of reading and writing work and fun activities.

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